The Best Non-Pumpkin Fall Beers
Backwoods Bastard by Founders Brewing Co.
Kicking this off with a heavy hitter, Backwoods Bastard clocks in at a whopping 11.2 percent alcohol-by-volume. But as you’d expect from Founders, one of America’s most acclaimed craft breweries, the alcohol doesn’t feel oppressive. This beer is aged in bourbon barrels, and that bourbon powers through in spades. But it’s complemented by satisfying hits of molasses, caramel, and vanilla. If there were ever a cool-weather, back-porch beer to sip while watching the leaves fall, this is it.
Oktoberfest Märzen Lager by Left Hand Brewing Co.
Traditionally, German märzen beers were brewed in spring and cellared during the hot summer months before being pulled out for Oktoberfest celebrations. That aging tended to produce rich, bready, full-bodied brews, and that certainly describes this gem from Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing. Roasted grains and herbs hit you on the nose, and the flavor is a satisfyingly malty burst of caramel, mild hops, and spice.
Mop Water by Cape May Brewing Co.
New Jersey-based Cape May Brewing isn’t on the radar of most craft fans. But if these guys keep producing beers as delectable (and funkily named) as Mop Water, they soon will be. Belying its name, this amber beer is crisp and medium-bodied, and loaded with fall spices—cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and vanilla. It’s a little too drinkable; you could get yourself in trouble if you don’t watch out for this one.
Hopzeit Autumn IPA by Deschutes Brewery
Oregon-based Deschutes is known for their balanced IPAs, and this brew tastes like the love child of a well-hopped American pale ale and a traditional German märzen. Hops and herbs comingle with Munich malts on the nose, and follow through on the palate. It’s got the bitterness you’d expect from an IPA, but also the bread and spice you’d look for in a märzen.
Autumn Maple by The Bruery
This high-ABV amber brew from California’s The Bruery is made with yams for a spuds-y take on seasonal pumpkin beer. Maple syrup and autumn spices feature on the nose and tongue, and the beer is nicely (and surprisingly) carbonated. If a sweet-potato-infused beer doesn’t sound appealing, give it a try before you write it off. You won’t regret it.
Oktoberfest by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Every year, the brewers at California’s Sierra Nevada team up with a different group of German beer-makers to produce a one-off Oktoberfest-style märzen. This year, the Sierra Nevada team worked with Brauhaus Miltenberger to produce a beautiful golden-amber beer packed with sweet, bready, subtle hoppy flavors. It’s a knockout—easily one of the best in this reliable fall series.
Dead ‘N’ Dead by Rogue
Rogue is arguably best known for its rich, yeasty Dead Guy Ale. They took Dead Guy and aged it in whiskey barrels to create Dead ‘N’ Dead, which has all the malty, roasty beauty of its younger sibling but with a little less sweetness—plus some oak and vanilla courtesy of its barrel aging. The whiskey barrels also add a depth and complexity that make this special.
Harvest by Southern Tier Brewing Co.
If you’re not familiar with New York’s Southern Tier, sampling their excellent Harvest ESB is a great way to get acquainted. Apart from its color, which its makers compare to a “bright autumn mountainside,” there’s nothing particularly autumnal about this beer. No fall spices or odes to seasonal celebrations. (They touch those bases in their equally great Pumking.) Just a medium-hopped, citrus-laced splash of malts and spicy hops. Like many of the best beers, this stands out for its balance and utter drinkability.